My inner hero

First off: I would like to remind my beloved readers that my prices are going up on April 11th! So if you’ve been thinking of booking a session (or several) this coming week is your opportunity to do that at the current price. (I’ve just spent the last five minutes trying to phrase that in a way that didn’t say, ‘OMG BUY NOW OR DOOM’ :) )

I just had the most stunning session – my second time with the same client, and she said I’d made a huge difference to her life. I was amazed at all the changes she’d experienced just from one session with me. How about accidentally getting over lifelong chronic lateness as an unexpected side effect? (Hmm, if I can do that for someone else, maybe I can do it for myself…;)

This session went really deep and got resolved really quickly, 1 hour 10 mins for the whole session including quite a long chat at the start about what was up. I’m on such a high right now.

This is really reminding me of why I do what I do. Lately, because I’m preoccupied with an upcoming house move and all the money stuff around that, I’ve fallen into thinking that I do this work for money. NOT NOT NOT! I do this to help all the brilliant, beautiful souls around me and to help the world change for the better. Glorious feeling!! And I really need to talk to my own monsters and headpeople more too. Seeing the effect on others reminds me how much it can help me.

Last night Andy advised me to talk to my inner hero on the blog, on the basis that I might find out some interesting things. So I’ll try doing that now. :)

Me: Hello?

(Blaze of light. KA-CHING! of Audible Sharpness. A dazzling star of light running down from point to hilt of a blade held skywards. When the dazzle clears, I’m kind of expecting to see Luke Skywalker in full-on poster boy mode. Or some amazing anime heroine like Utena or Oscar. Instead (is anyone surprised?) it’s just me. Jeans, t-shirt, messy hair. And where’s the sword gone?)

Me: Oh. You’re me.

Inner Hero: Well, don’t sound disappointed!

Me: I do feel a bit disappointed. I wanted to see some visible evidence that my inner hero is, you know, heroic.

Inner Hero: What would that look like to you?

Me: A bright sword. Burning blue eyes. Not necessarily a lot of muscle (I mean, look at Frodo) but a lot of heroic bearing. Intensity. Being visibly full of light and power. And preferably a heroic outfit too. Maybe shining armour or a spiffy military uniform with lots of gold braid.

Inner Hero: Armour? Military uniform? Wars do not make one great. You win by refusing to fight, remember?

Me: Yeah, but – I mean, Luke won by refusing to fight, but he still has his lightsaber. I mean, a sword made of light. The absolute symbol of pure goodness and power. Magical, miraculous power for good. You know?

Inner Hero: You’ve got a lightsaber.

Me: Yeah, a toy one.

Inner Hero: Oh come on. That’s a ‘toy’ like your parrot-headed umbrella is a ‘toy’. It’s an incredibly powerful talisman that is actually linked to your soul and therefore actually magical. Would you rather have a weapon you could kill people with?

Me: Well, no.

Inner Hero: Playfulness is a more important value to you than killing. Actually, violence is way down at the bottom of your value list and playfulness is way up at the top. And so is the reality of imaginary things. The power of imaginary things. I mean, look at what you do for a living! Trust me, the perfect blade for you is a toy one. Something that’ll always be a little bit funny. And at the same time, when you hold it, you make a face like THIS.

Me with a lightsaber

Me: Oh. Yeah. That is you.

Inner Hero: Burning blue eyes? Check. Heroic bearing? Check. Intensity? Check. Being visibly full of light and power? CHECK CHECK CHECK.

Me: Oh, but now I’m having all the I’m-not-worthy.

Inner Hero: Every hero has all the I’m-not-worthy!

Me: Really?

Inner Hero: Well, most of them. At some point. It’s a perfectly normal response to having an epic mission!

Me: Everybody has an epic mission. I mean, everybody’s life is their own epic mission. Everyone is the hero of their own hero’s journey.

Inner Hero: Yes, but right now we’re talking about you, not making excuses about why you’re not special.

Me: Everyone is special!

Inner Hero: Yes. Including you.

Me: Okay, so how do I connect with you more? What’s the secret?

Inner Hero: Well, it’s something you’re very good at. Believe in me.

Me: What?

Inner Hero: Play at being me. Imagine being me. You know imaginary things are real, right?

Me: Oh. Yes. Like the Sun says in the Mary Poppins books. To think a thing is to make it true. And so, if Michael thought he had the Moon in his arms -

Inner Hero: - why then, he had indeed. You thought you had a lightsaber in your hands. And look what happened.

Me: Wow. Yes. I can see that.

Inner Hero: You know what the funny part is?

Me: That I’m holding a piece of movie merchandise like it could cut steel?

Inner Hero: Okay, the other funny part. The really funny part is this. The only thing that’s really imaginary here is that you’re NOT me.

Me: What?

Inner Hero: You’ve been imagining that you’re not me. Playing a very elaborate game of make-believe and let’s-pretend that consumed your entire life. You’re really good at that. So good that you actually believed your own fantasy. You became the character.

Me: So the me who isn’t you is imaginary?

Inner Hero: Precisely! You not being a hero? Fantasy! You being unheroic? Nonsense! You having anything less than infinite light and power? That’s just a story you tell yourself! You’re making it up!

Me: Wow…

Inner Hero: So the funny thing is… you’re a hero pretending to be a non-hero pretending to be a hero!

Me: Oh, but that’s also really sad. Like, imagine if the greatest knight in the world had lost his memory and was just playing in the dirt like a child, forgetting who he was. And imagine if he picked up a stick and held it like a sword. I mean, really like a sword. You’d want to cry, wouldn’t you?

Inner Hero: Laugh or cry! Your choice.

Me: I’ll laugh.

Inner Hero: That’s me talking!

I shall be known as… OVER-PREPARED MAN!

I have a pattern of being underprepared for things and then panicking. I also have a pattern of having DREAMS about being underprepared for things and then panicking. One night, in the middle of one of these, I suddenly started thinking coherently about a way to destuckify this pattern…

‘I’m going to experiment with being OVER-PREPARED MAN!’ I thought. A secret superhero identity!

This is great for me because I have ludicrous fear popcorn about being prepared in case it makes me a boring grown-up. (Even in Brownies I always failed pocket check.) But clearly I can’t be a boring grown-up while playing at being a superhero!

I imagine Over-Prepared Man as very cartoonish (if I were going to do a voice for him I’d use the Tick as a starting-point) and covered from head to toe in a wildly clashing assortment of weaponry, armour and paraphernalia – including, in homage to Alice’s White Knight, a bunch of carrots and a beehive.

White Knight

All you can really see of Over-Prepared Man is his superheroic chin and cheesy KA-CHING! grin. He likes to leap in enthusiastically and shout, ‘This looks like a job for… OVER-PREPARED MAN!!!’

I usually don’t interview Over-Prepared Man so much as take on his mindset when I want to over-prepare for something. Like last weekend, I went on a coaching skills course (which I’ll probably rave about in more detail later) and it was entirely thanks to Over-Prepared Man that I was able to get ‘socially acceptable business-person’ outfits for both days laid out by Friday night AND arrive on time both days, suitably groomed and carrying a packed lunch and a stash of business cards. Let’s just say punctuality does not come naturally to me.

Punctuality is really on my mind at the moment, because I want to start volunteering with Carefree Kids, a local charity that does play therapy with troubled children. Not surprisingly, they’re sticklers for punctuality (just imagine the emotional impact of letting down a vulnerable child.) This is a real challenge for me. I have ISSUES around being on time, because I was savaged by a timetable when I was four (I’m only half joking!) This looks like a job for… OVER-PREPARED MAN!!

I’ve realised that part of the magic of being over-prepared is not having to be exactly the right amount prepared. Not having to do x at exactly y o’clock. Not having to follow anyone’s schedule. Not being timetabled! I can get around my fear of being timetabled if I let myself do each step any time within a big fuzzy timezone. Getting ready to leave any time before I need to, so then leaving is just leaving, not a daunting agglomeration of washing-dressing-eating-journeyplanning-packing-leaving that all has to be done right now or else. And then leaving the house any time before I need to, so it’s not having to leave right now or else.

This also works really well with going to bed. I’m sure I’m not the only person out there who sometimes stays up late because they’re too exhausted to contemplate brushing teeth and finding pyjamas :D (a problem that only gets worse the later it gets!!) Getting ready for bed any time before I need to solves that.

However, today I ran into an extra layer of trouble. I’m an introvert. This doesn’t mean I’m shy or don’t like people – far from it!! It means I recharge by being alone and expend a lot of energy when I’m with people (brilliant explanation here, which wins points both by using a hamster ball metaphor and by saying that ‘introverts give energy on social contact’. I’m giving people energy!) It also means I’m scared of the cleaner. Yes, really. She’s perfectly lovely, I’m just not so good with the COMPLETE STRANGER IN MY HOUSE thing. So today, I was late for a meetup with a friend because it involved these four steps:

1) Leave room.

2) Walk past THE COMPLETE STRANGER IN MY HOUSE AND MAYBE HAVE TO INTERACT WITH HER. Exposure!!

3) Leave house (more exposure!)

4) Commence social interaction.

ALL of these were setting off my introvert buttons. It was only after the cleaner left and I felt able to creep out of my hole that the Over-Prepared Man solution came to me. If I need to leave the house on a Tuesday, I can leave before the cleaner gets here. I can hang out in, say, the library, a cafe, or a pub until it’s time to go to where I’m going!

AND THEN I realised I could apply this to any house-leaving situation. So step 3 (leave house) and step 4 (commence social interaction) would be separated by a nice restful sit down with a book or laptop. Leaving the house would be easier because it wouldn’t be leave-house-commence-social-interaction. And leaving the library/pub/cafe would be easier than leaving the house because I’d already be in public and most of the way to my destination.

It’s all about SEPARATING THE STEPS! And pausing! (Paws!) Get ready (paws!) leave house (paws!) commence social interaction! AND it’s all about doing each step in my own time, because doing it early counts as doing it in my own time!

Wow, I can apply this to so many other things now… How would OVER-PREPARED MAN approach the transcribing work I’ve been not-doing while writing this blog post? I wonder…

I got heraldrybunnied

This happens to me sometimes. It’s like getting ‘plotbunnied’, where you have an intense urge to write a story, except I get an intense urge to make up a coat of arms. This particular bout of knight-in-shining-armoury was brought on by joining Challenge Accepted, which is the ULTIMATE in dorky, mock-heroic, playful, celebratory, self-loving productivity-geeking, and quite literally makes any job a game. I would highly recommend this, especially if you’re at all into fantasy or gaming, but even if you’re not.

So today I made a coat of arms for Monster Talk.

By Zigeuner     English: Picture made for the Blazon Project of French-speaking Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Starting from the middle, we have our monster. This dragon (or strictly speaking, wyvern, since it’s got two legs) is depicted tails nowed. It’s got its tail in a knot! THIS IS SUCH A PERFECT DEPICTION OF TANGLED STUCK EMOTIONS I CAN’T EVEN.

In heraldry, green is the colour of love and hope. So the wyvern is green to show that our monsters love us and can change.

The heart symbolises the loving, safe and judgement-free space in which monster-whispering takes place. This fierce-looking monster is completely surrounded by the white light of pure love. And he needs it too, they always do.

White in heraldry symbolises truth, sincerity and peace, which works perfectly even though the actual reason I picked it is that the only other colour allowed next to green and purple would be yellow. Frankly, this coat of arms looks enough like it fell in a vat of toxic chemicals as it is. :}

And then we have purple. Why purple? Because in heraldry, purple is the colour of sovereignty! Get it?

The blazon of this coat of arms would be, ‘Purpure on a heart argent a wyvern tails nowed vert flammant gules.’ I think.

OFFER!/Squee/Inspiration for bloggers

First off: I have a first-come-first-served OFFER! I am offering two bargains to just one person each! Three monster sessions for £120 (was £160) or six sessions for £200 (was £300.) Contact me to get ‘em while they’re hot!

And secondly: it seems that people are actually talking about my blog on the internets! In a positive way!

The other day, a new client approached me because she’d found me via comments on Captain Awkward, who is this hilarious right-on, emotional-genius agony aunt who I LOVE. So obviously I was thrilled. And then today somebody pointed me at this, which has appeared SINCE then. Apparently my demographic overlaps with Captain Awkward’s quite a lot :D

(NB that there’s a picture of Atreyu at the top of the post, which is so meaningful to me it’s almost up there with Luke Skywalker, Mary Poppins and dogs.)

So that would be one complete stranger posting about how my blog helped them start talking to their own monsters and not going into guilt spirals, followed by two other complete strangers saying that they are all like, breaking huge long-held assumptions down and changing things around in their way of thinking because of my blog! And somebody also linked to Havi, which I’m so happy about because Havi is literally the entire reason this website exists, and if you like my blog your mind will be BLOWN by hers, trust me.

I was also thrilled to find that this very interesting complete stranger had been inspired by, and adopted, the word gendersilly from my blog!

So obviously I’m all squeeing and feeling good about myself, and there is a serious point here as well. (Wait, no. I think squeeing and feeling good about oneself is a profoundly magical and mystical thing that literally makes the world a better place, so it’s VERY serious in the most light and joyful way!! Anyway.) The other point is that, dude. People’s lives. Changing. Because of things I said.

I’m sure everyone assumed this was obvious to me and I knew it was happening, and I did on some level, but I’ve just realised it more profoundly and in a new way because epiphanies are stoopid.

The takeaway (nom!) for anyone who has a blog that they’re trying to use to, I don’t know, say important things or shine light into the world or help others, and who maybe doesn’t get all that many comments on that blog, is…

You are doing much more good than you know.

It’s worth keeping going. (Not ‘you have to keep going otherwise it will be your fault that all that good isn’t getting done.’ That’s just depressing and icky.) It is worth keeping going because, oh, I’m going to quote Superman. You are much stronger than you think you are. All these ripples that you can’t see are spreading out from what you do. Complete strangers, invisibly to you, are happier, or more aware, or seeing new perspectives, or doing things differently right now because of what you do. And those complete strangers are interacting with other complete strangers, who are catching the goodness from them. Maybe walking away just a mite happier than they otherwise would have, maybe changing their whole worldview. Who knows? It’s happening… The world is changing because of you. Sparks of light are rippling out and out beyond what you can see, lighting little stars all over the world… It is SO worth doing what you do. Okay? Believe me. :D

I would like to note that the tags for this post are ‘love and monsters’, which is the title of a really good Doctor Who episode, but then I’d have to add a ‘geek’ tag and that would spoil it. Oh, wait.

Speed Whippet talks to Fear of Finishing

(Trigger warning: very brief mention of suicide. Like, briefer than this warning.)

I do audio transcribing as a sideline, and while working on a piece today I ran into a familiar monster, Fear of Finishing. He’s a squat fuzzy monster with big eyes and little flaily arms. My urgency monsters said I had no time to talk to him.

I’ve been wanting to experiment with super-quick monster talks for a while, so I decided to bring in a new headcast member, Speed Whippet.

Grinning whippet face
Side note: After finding this picture of a whippet I was earwormed with ‘FOUND a picture of a WHIPpet, FOUND a picture of a WHIPpet,’ to the tune of  ‘Glory, Glory, Hallelujah’.

Speed Whippet talks very fast, sounds vaguely American, and today he’s borrowing an interview technique from Lady Vastra from ‘Doctor Who’.

Speed Whippet: Hi! Answer in one word, please! What are you observing?

Fear of Finishing: Danger!

Speed Whippet: How are you feeling?

Fear of Finishing: Scared!

Speed Whippet: What do you need?

Fear of Finishing: Respite!

Speed Whippet: What are you requesting?

Fear of Finishing: STOP!

Speed Whippet: What happens if she doesn’t stop?

Fear of Finishing: Doom!

Speed Whippet: What kinda doom?

Fear of Finishing: Pressure!

Speed Whippet: Pressure to do what?

Fear of Finishing: Deliver! (jumps up and down) Mfff mfff!

Speed Whippet: You got some more to say there?

Fear of Finishing: Be a grown-up!

Speed Whippet: Pressure to deliver and be a grown-up?

Fear of Finishing: Yes!

Speed Whippet: What would happen if she did deliver and be a grown-up? Don’t say ‘doom’.

Fear of Finishing: Death!

Speed Whippet: Like, she wouldn’t be her any more?

Fear of Finishing: Yes! Mmmfff mmffff!

Speed Whippet: And?

Fear of Finishing: Or!

Speed Whippet: Or?

Fear of Finishing: Karoshi!

Speed Whippet: Death by overwork?

Fear of Finishing: Yes!

Speed Whippet: Okay, and what if she didn’t deliver and be a grown-up?

Fear of Finishing: Doom! Death! Shame! Regret!

Speed Whippet: Death as in death by starvation?

Fear of Finishing: Or!

Speed Whippet: Or?

Fear of Finishing: Suicide!

Speed Whippet: Wow. Really?!

Fear of Finishing: Uh…

Speed Whippet: You know she’s a lot happier now, right?

Fear of Finishing: (relaxing somewhat) Yeah.

Speed Whippet: Okay, speed rundown! You’re scared that if she finishes this work there’ll be pressure to finish ALL THE WORK and she’ll die of overwork. Or lose herself and die inside. Or fail and die of hunger and shame.

Fear of Finishing: YES!!

Speed Whippet: So you want her to not finish so nobody will think she’s capable and there’ll be no pressure.

Fear of Finishing: YES!!

Speed Whippet: Trouble is that when you stop her finishing work, she’s stuck in work. Constant work. And hunger and shame. And losing herself. All the things you want to protect her from.

Fear of Finishing: WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!

Speed Whippet: Wanna hear some different possibilities?

Fear of Finishing: Please!!

Speed Whippet: What if there wasn’t pressure?

Fear of Finishing: Huh?!

Speed Whippet: Has this client put any pressure on her, even when she delivered really late?

Fear of Finishing: None!

Speed Whippet: And what if there was pressure, and she could be sovereign about it?

Fear of Finishing: Huh?

Speed Whippet: Like, ‘Oh, somebody is trying to pressure me. That’s their stuff. My stuff is coming up in response. Hello, my stuff. Let’s make a sovereign choice about what to do here because I am the king or queen of my life.’

Fear of Finishing: Wow!!

Speed Whippet: You think she could do that?

Fear of Finishing: Dunno!

Speed Whippet: Willing to let her try? As an experiment?

Fear of Finishing: Eek!

Speed Whippet: What do you need to feel safe?

Fear of Finishing: Protection!

Speed Whippet: What kind of protection?

Fear of Finishing: Um…

Speed Whippet: Protection for you, or protection for her?

Fear of Finishing: Her!

Speed Whippet: But you don’t know what kind?

Fear of Finishing: Openness!

Speed Whippet: You want her to be open with people when she’s finding things difficult? Like if she’s stuck on a piece of work, email her client and say, ‘Hello, I have this stuckness right now and this is what it means for you’?

Fear of Finishing: And!

Speed Whippet: And maybe warn people in advance if she thinks she might find a task difficult, and let them decide whether to trust her with it?

Fear of Finishing: Yes!!

Speed Whippet: Anything else?

Fear of Finishing: Life-preserver!

Speed Whippet: Like a cheery red and white rubber ring that she can wear to keep her afloat when there’s death/doom stuff coming up?

Fear of Finishing: (joyfully bouncing up and down) YES YES YES!

Speed Whippet: Would you like to give one to her?

Fear of Finishing: Yes!

Speed Whippet: Then go ahead!

(Fear of Finishing delightedly hands me a life preserver. Hugs and mild tearfulness ensue.)

Speed Whippet: All in a day’s work for SPEED WHIPPET! (dashes off)

(NB. I proceeded to share this conversation with my client, followed 40 minutes later by the finished work.)

Bilbo and the Blue It’s Too Late Monster

This is a chatlog of a monster talk I did with a client who’s also a dear friend. They were very keen for me to post this, and chose the pseudonym ‘Bilbo’ for reasons that will become apparent (and unintentionally hilarious when I quote LOTR at one point.)

Bilbo has been dealing with chronic illness for many years, and is now dealing with the possibility of getting better and being able to have a career. Which sounds (and is) wonderful, except that here be monsters…

Bilbo: This is the monster that makes me panic so much about how much I haven’t got done in my life yet and how it is slipping away and how there is absolutely no chance that I can achieve or do anything real now.
It’s a “what’s the point”? type monster, as far as I can make out.
But above all, it’s an “it’s too late” monster.

me: oh <3333 empathy

Bilbo: Yeah. It took me a while to burrow down this far, if that makes sense, but this is one of the Big Bads for me.

me: that does make sense! I find a lot of the time I deal with one monster and there’s another lurking underneath
monster layers!
and yes, I can understand that

Bilbo: Definitely!

me: do you want to tell me a bit more about it?

Bilbo: I don’t feel I know much about it yet – frankly it’s a very, very intimidating monster! But it’s also kind of slippery. Impervious.
It doesn’t attack me, as such, it looms over me and steals all the air from the room.

me: eurgh

Bilbo: It’s very tall, and very thin, and has a cloak. And is, oddly, blue.
Oh, and I do know that a lot of its Stuff comes from my Dad. Who was very much into this idea that if you didn’t begin the day right you couldn’t ever get it back.
(Frankly he seemed to imply a lot that if you didn’t begin the day right you couldn’t get any day back, but I did at least manage to break that slightly.)

me: ugh, ugh, I feel for you having to grow up with THAT

Bilbo: *hugs* Thank you!

me: and well done for breaking it, even slightly
you know, that was a monster of HIS talking!!

Bilbo: Oh, yes, that’s true!
Damn. Monsters are contagious! :-(

me: I only just realised that myself and it’s SO true
*hugs*

Bilbo: *hugs* too
Oh, something else about this monster – it looks sad.

me: oh!
<3

Bilbo: Not angry, just… sad. Disappointed. But you know that “grown-up” negativity that is actually really oppressive, that regards optimism and positivity as childish and unrealistic etc.? That.
That kind of disappointment that absolutely refuses to let other people not be disappointed too.

me: aaargh
yes
okay

Bilbo: It’s not quite the same, but it reminds me of a time I played piano in a music concert when I was, I don’t know, 7 or 8 or so? And I didn’t do brilliantly, but I did my best, and I got a really nice round of applause. And my Dad had been page-turning and helped me off-stage and all he said was, “oh, never mind”. In a really, really kind way, and he clearly thought he was being lovely. But it was crushing because he was telling me I’d done badly.

me: argh!
oh, you must have been completely gutted

Bilbo: I was. :-( It’s weird how much that still hurts!

me: ouch, ouch
not weird at all!
your creativity is so essential to your being, music especially
and his approval for something SO fundamental to you must have meant SO much

Bilbo: Yes! Also, he didn’t let me enjoy even for a minute the fact that I’d made it through to the end of the piece even though it was, in retrospect, too hard for me.

me: ugh, horrible

Bilbo: If he’d told me later on that he thought I could do better than that and he’d help me to practise more next time? That would have been absolutely fine.

me: yes <3
I think most people intuitively get that children need support for their creativity even more than adults (and you know how much adults do!) and give them that little bit of applause however well they’ve done

Bilbo: Yeah, exactly. Which is what the people applauding me were doing! They could all see that I was struggling, and they felt for me and were applauding my being brave and keeping on going even though I was under-rehearsed.
Just thought of something else: it was him choosing what he thought my emotional response should be. (Which my parents both did so much, and my Mum still tries to do with everyone.)

me: ugh, yuck
so, you really, really didn’t get a lot of empathy as a child

Bilbo:  Yeah, really not. :-(

me: I’m so impressed that you’ve ended up with such a gift for giving empathy to others

Bilbo: *hugs* Thank you. <3 blushes rather
I think that’s all I can thnk of about my “It’s Too Late” monster right now.

(Here we did conscious entry)

me: if you’d like a safe room (or knowing you, the top of a safe mountain) to be in while I talk to this monster, that can be arranged
or if your monster is ready to come forward now, I’m ready to talk to it <3

Bilbo: I think so. I’d like a sheltered hollow on top of a Scottish hill, with a wonderful view of the sea, and sheltered enough to be able to play my uke and guitar and turn the pages of music books without them blowing away. :-)

me: wonderful :) I see you need no prompting there :)

Bilbo: :)
exhales, a little panicky but okay
My monster is not just ready but very eager to come forward.
(And barged past me… hmph.)

me: (oh!! <3)
hello, monster :) let’s talk

It’s Too Late: Hi.

me: so it seems like you’re really eager to talk to me
is there something particular you want to say?

It’s Too Late: Bilbo never listens.
They keep thinking there are things they can do, even though they’ve wasted most of their life so far.
I am hoping that you will listen to me.

me: I’m absolutely listening
I know it’s really, really important to you to be heard

It’s Too Late: .. Thank you.

me: you’re welcome <3

It’s Too Late: I’m not sure what I want to say now. Except that I feel betrayed by Bilbo.
They are horrible to me.

me: sounds like you’re very, very angry

It’s Too Late: I’m mostly just miserable.
But Bilbo makes me angry as well by brushing me aside and not listening to me.

me: oh, I’m so sorry to hear that you’re miserable
and it’s totally understandable when you have such a painful relationship with the person you love and exist for

It’s Too Late: They don’t listen! They keep trying and trying and trying to get better and to do things and they won’t listen to me when I tell them that there’s no point when it’s too late now for us to do anything!

me: you must be terribly frustrated

It’s Too Late: We lost our childhood to abuse and bullying, and all our adult life so far to illness.
I am!

me: *nods*

It’s Too Late: There is no possible way that things can change now, and every time Bilbo decides to try more it makes me so angry and upset.

me: why is that – what are you afraid will happen to them if they keep trying?

It’s Too Late: I don’t feel loving towards Bilbo. :-( All I feel is this enormous hole full of grief that they won’t acknowledge or pay attention to.
They are trying to make our story have a happy ending, and it’s not possible! No story starts like ours and has a happy ending.
No one would even bother to tell a story like ours. Happy endings are for people who do things when they’re young and keep on doing them.

me: oh – you need acknowledgement for your loss? For their loss – right?

It’s Too Late: Yes yes yes!
They are determined to have this happy life, and that’s all well and good but are so damned positive and chirpy about it and they won’t notice that their childhood was ruined and their adult life has been ruined and there’s no hope of it changing.

me: you need to know that Bilbo is mourning with you, because you don’t want to cry alone?

It’s Too Late: Yes! Oh Gods, yes!
But I think they are afraid that if they start mourning they will slide into depression and never come out again.
So I can see why they don’t want to acknowledge the loss.
But I am still depressed. And I’m upset that they aren’t too.

me: I understand

It’s Too Late: But Bilbo mourning the loss too wouldn’t help that much.

me: why not?

It’s Too Late: Because it’s still far, far too late for them. For us.
Because there’s no point to anything in their life because they didn’t achieve anything when they were younger, and because their life has been ruined.

me: so basically, you just want Bilbo to be here with you at the end of all things

It’s Too Late: I suppose so.
I want them to stop trying to escape.
I want them to stop trying. Trying to be nice. Trying to be positive. Trying to act like they have a life that’s worth anything and that can ever be worth anything.
*flaps cloak around in frustration*

me: okay, just assuming for the moment that you’re right and Bilbo’s life will never be worth anything – what happens if they keep trying?

It’s Too Late: They will never notice what’s happened to them. And I will be all alone!!
You were right earlier. I… I want to not be on my own anymore.
I want Bilbo to understand how much pain I’m in.

me: it sounds like you need empathy <3

It’s Too Late: Yes.

me: like all those years when Bilbo needed empathy and wasn’t getting it

It’s Too Late: Yes.

me: and for Bilbo to give you empathy for your pain, you believe they would also have to be *in* your pain

It’s Too Late: Yes!

me: which is incompatible with seeing hope and trying

It’s Too Late: I want them and me to understand each other, and instead they are going further and further away from me!
I’m supposed to know everything about them. I do know everything about them.
If they keep hoping and trying and changing, I won’t know them anymore and they’ll be even further from understanding what it is I’m feeling.
They are running away from me and I’m so scared!

me: sending you so much love for the fear

It’s Too Late: Thank you.

me: the thing is, Bilbo has tremendous compassion
they can understand someone’s pain, and feel compassion for them, and be with them and even cry with them, without also taking on that person’s stuff and making it their own stuff
and maybe, just maybe, they can do that for you too

It’s Too Late: Then why haven’t they already?

me: they don’t respond well to fear-based motivation

It’s Too Late: They want to not even acknowledge that we share this horrible history of pain!

me: which is totally understandable because well, it’s a horrible history
and what you seem to be doing is emphasising just how horrible that is, in the hopes that if you make the horribleness big and loud and in-their-face enough, they can’t fail to respond
the thing is that when things are big and loud and in their face, they respond by protecting themselves, just like most people would
the more scariness you’re sending their way, the less they want to interact with you or acknowledge you

It’s Too Late: But I’m scared!
They keep wanting to achieve more with their life!
It’s terrifying!
They’re breaking the story!

me: why is it terrifying, what are you afraid will happen?
how is the story supposed to go?

It’s Too Late: They… argh.
The story goes that they had an abusive childhood, and were bullied at school. They achieved some things despite that, but then they became ill.

me: *nods*

It’s Too Late: And that’s it. The story has to end there, or it carries on with them continuing to be ill. Dying loved and pitied but … but what it can’t do is suddenly change in their early-mid thirties into a totally different story!
They can’t just turn around in their mid-thirties and achieve things!

me: oh, right!

It’s Too Late: Things… people… stories… life doesn’t work like that!
It’s impossible!

me: so, wait
you’re actually afraid that Bilbo is right?
that they *can* achieve things, and that this will just make the story unreadably weird, like if the consumptive Victorian woobie got up in the middle and started driving the plot?

It’s Too Late: Yes!
There’ll be no… no guidelines! No rules! No plot! It will be chaos.
I won’t know how to help them with that!
They won’t know what to do, and they’ll never be able to explain to people the story of their life because it won’t make sense!
I’m… oh Gods.
I think I’m Bilbo’s writer.

me: oh! oh, wow. <3

It’s Too Late: It’s not good! I’ve been lumbered with this horrible story, but at least I can make it consistent!
They’re trying to run away from everything I can set up for them.
It was bad enough when they got a boyfriend, I could make things fit that. But… but to suddenly decide to be and become a successful folk singer? In their mid-30s? And then, what, adopt a child in their mid-40s? Argh! It’s chaos!

me: I so empathise with how scary it is when your story takes on a life of its own

It’s Too Late: And there’ll be this huge big hole in their twenties, and… and if they get better and start enjoying life then they’ll have to face up to that huge big hole, and all the horrible bits of their childhood, and look back at them as this blank space, and it will make them utterly miserable!
And, and I know I’m not being consistent and argh!
It is scary, yes. Thank you for empathising.

me: you’re welcome, and you don’t have to be consistent <3

It’s Too Late: I don’t want them to be a middle-aged person and achieving all these things and then looking back at the first 34-odd years of their life as a waste.

me: of course you don’t want that for them, I understand

It’s Too Late: But… but if their whole life is like that, then, well. That’s just a tragedy. Not a mess.
A tragedy I can deal with! I can help them with a tragedy, I understand it!

me: yes, because then… they clearly couldn’t help it, right??

It’s Too Late: Yes!
And at least it would be a good story!
This… all this changing when they’re far too old to be the hero of their own book anyway.
Maybe if they left it ’til they were 70 or so it could be a different sort of book.

me: oh, that
I’ve been sensing that floating around the edges of the conversation

It’s Too Late: But no one goes from zero to adventures at 34.
Okay, apart from hobbits.

me: you read my mind
hobbits, though!

It’s Too Late: But Frodo was the equivalent of 21! I’ll concede Bilbo though, since 50 works out as around 30s for hobbits.

me: I was going to say, Bilbo

It’s Too Late: But.. argh.
See, that’s an appealing thread. It makes some sense.
But it’s one story against all of the others that are piled up against anything happening for people in their 30s unless the things in question started a lot earlier.
Also, how is Bilbo going to explain the huge gap as a folk musician? There are professionals half their age. It’s terrifying. They’re going to be told they’re too old.

me: TROPES! We have a problem with Real Life Tropes!

It’s Too Late: … Oh. Yeah, I guess.

me: there are a lot of Real Life Tropes that say achievement can’t start in your 30s

It’s Too Late: I think… well.
I brought Bilbo up.
I, books, stories.

me: oh, wow
yes, yes

It’s Too Late: Their parents were so neglectful in so many ways. They never taught them the things they needed to know.
I’ve looked after them as best I could, even though I’m just a hack writer.
But they’re a real person, and it’s HARD!

me: oh, SO MUCH EMPATHY FOR YOUR HARD!

It’s Too Late: And I can’t help them or look after them or guard them or explain to them what they need to do when none of the stories cover where they are going now!
I can’t do this!
And if I can’t do it, who is going to look after Bilbo?!

me: Bilbo
and their gods

It’s Too Late: cries
But what if that’s not enough?
I have to look after them! I need them, and they need me!
What if I stop protecting and hemming them in, and they need me and they’re too far for me to reach!

me: Bilbo will always need stories
and stories will always be part of them
but to be hemmed in – by stories?
the fact that you even chose that word tells me that you’re starting to see it differently

It’s Too Late: I think I am.

me: :) can you tell me what you’re seeing now?

It’s Too Late: I think… I think I have to let Bilbo write the story.

me: I think that is the most bloody awesome idea ever <3

It’s Too Late: And/or I have to let Bilbo be free and lead their life, and then I write that, rather than, well, writing their life and making them follow what I’ve already written.
But then, what’s my purpose?

me: you’re the writer
you are the one the character brushes past and whispers ‘Take this down’

It’s Too Late: And, well, they haven’t done much writing over their adulthood? Probably because I’ve not let them… argh. :(

me: this isn’t just about literally writing
it’s about stories
if you prefer, you’re the storyteller

It’s Too Late: We have to make a new story together. They and me.

me: yes
yes :)

It’s Too Late: I don’t know if I’m good enough for this. :-S
I… I really do have to try though, don’t I?

me: yes!
this is the great thing about stories!

It’s Too Late: Oh.

me: when you let them tell themselves
that’s when it gets good!

It’s Too Late: This is the whole writing thing, isn’t it? The whole craft thing generally.

me: yes <3

It’s Too Late: You keep going at it, and if it’s shit you keep going and then you write/make/sing/invent more and more and more because the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.
I’ve been writing Bilbo the wrong story to be in.
And I’ve not let them write their own.
So we’re both actually pretty inexperienced for this.
But… but we have to try. We really do have to try.

me: and there is time, for both of you, and yes

It’s Too Late: I would like them to acknowledge more fully how much grief we both have for their childhood and the first part of their adulthood, though.
I think that would help. Not so much with the story but, well.
Because I was writing it so I got more and more and more distressed by it.
Can I help them to mourn, but without depressing them in a bad way?

me: yes, absolutely
I think mourning and depression are almost opposite
mourning is processing pain, letting it flow through your system
depression is when you’re stuck in pain and pain is stuck in you

It’s Too Late: *nods* That makes sense.
Yes.
Gosh, I really am very scared. Bilbo and I are trying to write a totally new story, with a plot that no one else seems to write!
I think I’d better let them take the lead. I think that way I won’t obstruct them.
But maybe I can help with some of the fine detail.

me: I think that’s a wonderful idea, and yes

It’s Too Late: I… this may be an odd request, but can I talk to your Mr H?
It’s just that he seems to really know a lot about stories.

me: yes!! he would love to, hold on

It’s Too Late: Thank you. :-)

Mr. H: hey there :D it’s me

It’s Too Late: Hi!

Mr. H: so you wanna talk about stories?
ask me anything

It’s Too Late: OMG how do you cope with being a story-person who lives in the head of a real person? It’s so hard!
I’m starting to realise that I may not actually be a monster at all.
How do you stop the tropes from getting in the way of the real story?

Mr. H: I just keep reminding myself and her that I’m part of her

It’s Too Late: *nods* Trouble is, I’ve been controlling Bilbo far too much. I need to know how to let go of that, but still support them and… well, I’m kind of stumped.

Mr. H: what I do is sense when I’m needed and show up

It’s Too Late: nods
I’ve done a lot of advising Bilbo over the years.
When things in real life are similar to stories, I’m usually quite good at advising them.
But when there’s a difference, I get terrified.

Mr. H: right, so that’s when you need to show up, when there’s story-stuff going on
when you can motivate Bilbo by saying guess what, ring, fire, go!

It’s Too Late: So… so I guess I need to learn to tell when this is something I can help with, and when it’s something that actually Bilbo can teach me about, or someone else in their head-cast can teach us both!
Haha, yes!

Mr. H: yes!
this is why we exist, see, because real (you know, THAT kind of real) people need a multiplicity of viewpoints

It’s Too Late: Ahh, yes.

Mr. H: and when you’re terrified… that probably means it’s time for you to curl up in stories and let another part of Bilbo take over
not because you’re lesser, not because you’re weak
because what we are doing here.. is TEAMWORK :D
you know, it’s like acting!
ensemble show!

It’s Too Late: That makes sense!
Or ensemble cast – most of mine and Bilbo’s favourite books have huge casts in them.
Ensemble fantasy novel casts, I mean.

Mr. H: yes, I get it

It’s Too Late: Thank you so much, Mr H, this is really helpful. :-)

Mr. H: you’re welcome, I’m loving this too!
anything else you’d like to know? I like to talk

It’s Too Late: :-)
I’m actually thinking that I probably need a new name.
I’ve also noticed that I seem to have shrunk, and I’m no longer 7ft tall. This is probably a good thing!

Mr. H: yes

It’s Too Late: I’ve been the “It’s Too Late” monster, and… no.
It isn’t too late, and I’m not a monster.
I also think that I should stop just being blue all the time.
Blue is a nice colour, but so are lots of other colours!

Mr. H: YEAH!
oh, yeah
you have literally been blue all the time
and there are lots of other colours

It’s Too Late: Yep.
Now, obviously I need to be careful, because beings that have just been one perfectly nice colour suddenly becoming so-and-so-of-many-colours tends to go badly. ;-)

Mr. H: AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
aw, man… you made my eyes water with laughter

It’s Too Late: I’m the Storytellers.
:-)

Mr. H: plural
YES
beautiful

Storytellers: Good grief, that was a misprint, but now I come to look – I was right!
I am the Storytellers!

Mr. H: I’m pretty much punching the air over here

Storytellers: I am one being, but I am also several.
*splits into several figures, all of different colours*
*and sometimes reshapes into a single being who’s a rainbow*

Mr. H: that’s one way of solving the Saruman issue!
ALL YOUR POWERS COMBINED!

Storytellers: Ha, yes!
Yay!
Stories are many, and varied.

Mr. H: you can say that again!

Storytellers: And being stuck into one being made us, frankly, kind of broken and bewildered and, well, stuck.
Bilbo can have a range of storytellers to help with different cases.
But ultimately, we are the reflections (many and one) of their own storytelling power.

Mr. H: yes, yes, yes

Storytellers: Seven (or possibly a million) Rainbow Storytellers for the price of one blue monster. :-)
Oh, I like being this us so much better! relaxes

Mr. H: you guys are so awesome :D

Bilbo: Mr H, may we collectively give you a hug?

Mr. H: YEAH!!!
hugpile!

Storytellers: Rainbow Storytellers hug-pile!
Thank you. :-)
I would really, really like to talk to Bilbo soon, so if I could have Eve back so maybe she can help me prepare for that?

Mr. H: wahoo! thank YOU, and yes, sure

Storytellers: But thank you so much, Mr H!

Mr. H: thanks guys, never been hugged by someone else’s headpeople before, I’ll never forget this

Storytellers: :-)

Mr. H: and you’re very welcome
now here’s Eve….

Storytellers: As are you!
Hello Eve. :-)

me: hello!

Storytellers: We would really like to talk to Bilbo, and to apologise to them for having scared them and resented them so much.

me: I think that would be wonderful

Storytellers: And we’d also like to give them full permission to be the Head Storyteller of our little group, and promise to let them take the lead.

me: and I think that would be wonderful too

Storytellers: We are, however, quite scared.

me: oh <3 how can I help?

Storytellers: We’re not quite sure.

me: what’s scaring you right now?

Storytellers: That they may hate us.

me: *nods*

Storytellers: Also, that we will fail at this, and go back to being the Blue It’s-Too-Late Monster again.
We don’t ever want to be the Blue Monster again!

me: as long as you don’t want to, you won’t
you might have moments when you forget, but you’ll be able to be reminded, or to remind yourself
you can’t un-realise what you’ve realised today

Storytellers: nods That makes sense. :-)
Maybe… maybe Bilbo can help us to stay Rainbow. :-)

me: yes :) absolutely

Storytellers: But the bluest of us is going to stay slightly taller, and may be our spokesperson, to remind us that we were Blue, and that it’s okay for our pasts to have had grief and failure and regrets in them.

me: that’s perfect, yes
that’s beautiful

Storytellers: Because pasts are important, including grief and failure and regrets.
Thank you. :-)

me: you’re welcome

Storytellers: Okay! We are ready, if Bilbo is ready too to come out.

me: wonderful
let me check with them
Bilbo, are you willing to come out and talk with your Storytellers?

Storytellers: Can you call them? We’re… a bit shy of doing so, given everything.

me: I understand

Bilbo: Absolutely. :-) Actually, I can’t wait.

me: then please come and do so <3
Storytellers, you’re good to talk now <3

Bilbo: *emerges*
Hi Storytellers!
I’ve heard everything that’s been going on.
I rather randomly found some daisies at the top of this hill, and I made seven daisy chains. Which can also be a million if you like, because this is (partly) Story-land.

me: <3<3<3

Bilbo: (Okay, I’m going to start using character headings to avoid confusing us. :-) )

me: :D

Storytellers: Bilbo, we are so, so sorry for impeding you and stopping you from doing things, and for trying to control you and hem you in and make you follow a trope-filled story that wasn’t appropriate.

Bilbo: I know. :-) You were doing it because you love me, and Gods, you helped me so much when I was a child! It’s not your fault that stories can’t cover every eventuality – or that most of the stories in the world are problematic when it comes to things such as age, gender, child abuse and disability and so on!
I’m really proud of you all for talking to Eve and Mr H and sorting yourselves out. And I love you. :-)
*gives Storytellers daisy chains, one each*

me: *crying happily*

Bilbo: Oh, that’s lovely! You know that you were all identical before? You started off as the Blue Monster being bearded and male and thin and sad-looking, and now you’re all shapes and sizes and identities, and fluctuating! I think the daisies brought you to life. :-)

Storytellers: :) :) :)

me: :) :):)

Blue Storyteller: Bilbo, we really do need and want you to grieve properly and fully for everything you’ve lost in your childhood and adolescence and adulthood so far. And to recognise that it’s okay to regret things. That is going to be my role in your head from now on – to remind you that stories with regret in them aren’t unbearably sad. That you don’t need to push that grief aside.

Bilbo: Okay. I’m not going to be able to do that all at once, you know? But bit by bit, I promise… no, Quaker, I affirm that I will do just that. And, thank you. :-)

Green Storyteller: Bilbo, we want you to recognise that you are our Chief, our Chief Storyteller. We will take our lead from you. We will suggest things, and write things down and tell them when you want us to. And we’ll all have different perspectives and ideas. But ultimately this is your story, and you need to write it. We’ve done our best to bring you up to this point, but we’ve been making things so much worse for you over the last few years.

Yellow Storyteller: You’re going to write a whole new story with your life from now on, Bilbo. And we’re going to help you. And we’re really scared by it, and we know that you are too. But we’re going to try to not add to your fear with our own Stuff. If you notice us doing so, please tell us, and tell us that it’s our Stuff, and we’ll try not to bring it to the table so much!

Red Storyteller: Also, you should write your own stories with 30+ female and/or genderqueer heroes, because there need to be more of them!

me: :D DD

(enthusiastic agreement from all Storytellers)

Bilbo: I’ll do my best. But I need to start living and writing my own story freely first. :-)

Purple Storyteller: Are you ready to do that now?

Bilbo: As ready as I’ll ever be, and I need to start somewhere. :-) One of the things that I need you guys to recognise is that sometimes the story image isn’t helpful to me at all. Because of all the baggage, and also becomes sometimes all I can deal with is the next five minutes, not the whole of my life! Seeing things in story-shape has contributed to my anxiety. Which isn’t your fault! But you remember how lately I’ve found it helpful when motivating myself for some things to say, “what I have power over, all I have power over, is me, myself, right now”? I want and need to carry on doing things like that.
But that doesn’t mean at all that you lot aren’t going to be wonderfully helpful to me too! There will be times when I’ll need your advice, and times when I’ll need your encouragement, and times when I really need to be in a story now, and times when I’ll need you to tell the story that I’m making – to be the author that the character whispers too! And times, above all, when I’ll need you guys cheering me on, because goodness knows recovery is hard in so many ways.

(the Storytellers coalesce temporarily, into a rainbow hue)

Rainbow Storyteller: That makes perfect sense. :-)
Hug?

(the Rainbow Storyteller separates into the 7 main colours again, and Bilbo hugs each one in turn. Then each of them lays their hand on Bilbo’s head in turn, and colour suffuses them.)

Bilbo: Thank you. Thank you all. :-)
Okay, is there anything else that any of you would like to say, to me or to Eve?

Storytellers: We’d like to thank Eve, please. :-)

me: :) oh, I was over here crying with joy and thanking God for letting me be a part of this

Bilbo: *loves*

Blue Storyteller: Eve, may we have a hug?

me: you SO may

Blue Storyteller: Storyteller hug-pile!

me: *hugs you all*

Blue Storyteller: Eve, it is possible that you now have colours on you yourself. :-)

me: <3<3<3<3<3<3
hee hee
I have no objection :D :D

Bilbo: SO MUCH LOVE Storytellers. And well done. I’m so proud of you all. :-) I’d really like to talk to Eve myself now and wind things down, because my head is slightly exploding with being me and the rest of you at the same time! But I LOVE YOOOOU! And we’ll talk soon, yes? :-)

(Storytellers spin and spin and spin together into one Rainbow Storyteller and then spin and spin and spin faster until they are made of light, and then disappear with a slight pop. Though they are probably just in Bilbo’s head now, and have not actually gone anywhere.)

Bilbo: Phewwww!
Gosh.
falls over sideways

me: I KNOW RIGHT
that was so wonderful I can’t even
wow

Bilbo: I was getting rather self-conscious during the last bit – talking to myself felt so weird.

me: it was amazing to read

Bilbo: I’m so scared, still. But also positive. :-) And, yeah. I know that they’re there in the back of my mind, and it’s like there’s this part of me that I know is on my side now. :-)
Yeah, getting that feeling of freedom. This could be good. :-)

me: oh, wonderful

Bilbo: THANK YOU SO MUCH OMG I DON’T EVEN!
You were amazing.
You are so damn good at this!

Geekout

No, this is not about the VERY exciting news coming in from Comic-Con today…

I just received an email from my friend Casby and had to share (with his permission, of course):

How are the monsters? I keep thinking of you as being like the Ghostbusters i.e. you must have a high voltage laser containment system in your room at Abi’s place, where you are storing all the monsters you’ve caught. Then you’ll get more and more requests for sessions until you realise that an Elder God is actually entering this dimension and you’ll need to fight them off by spelling words with E before I until the internets explode and the God is banished back to there own universe :)
 
Peter Mayhew will be the Keymaster and Carrie Fisher the Gatekeeper.
 
I’ll switch references and request that you don’t try to kidnap the Enterprise to take it to the centre of the Galaxy and meet a fake God :D

Sad Rage Basset

Sad Rage Basset is sad! And full of rage!

Basset Hound Zazzle card
Card Image from Zazzle

Recently I’ve been filled with rage at doing anything at all that wasn’t exactly what I felt like doing in that moment. This rage attached itself to my current obsession with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I just wanted to throw off all responsibility and run away to the stars, or failing that, get very drunk.

I DEFINITELY needed one or two members of my headcast to act as negotiators on this one. Mr. H is my go-to guy for dealing with fierce, angry monsters, and also the one who’s best at getting through to me when I’m in a horrible mood, for reasons I have yet to understand. So this happened.

Mr. H: So, we’re gonna talk to some rage. That’s cool (cracks knuckles) I’m good at talking to rage. Hiiiii, rage!

(A very large and dismal basset-hound-thing appears)

Sad Rage Basset: (slumps on ground) …Bleurgh. I’m not going to give you the satisfaction.

Mr. H: You’re huh?

Sad Rage Basset: You want me to come in here all huge and screaming so you can amusingly defy me. I’m not going to give you the satisfaction.

Mr. H: (smiles) That’s okay. This isn’t really about me getting to do my comedy turn. This is about finding out what makes you tick.

Sad Rage Basset: I don’t tick. I’m too angry to tick. I – what’s a much angrier noise than tick?

Mr. H: (mad eyes) GrrRRrrRrrrrr!

Sad Rage Basset: (disarmed, almost-laughter turning into almost-tears) Oh God everything sucks.

Mr. H: (sitting down next to Sad Rage Basset on the ground) Wanna tell me about it?

Sad Rage Basset: (plonks its head on his lap) Okay. But you won’t be able to fix it.

Mr. H: You know what’s funny? You sound a bit like Marvin. I mean, I was expecting a bit of Ford here. All the wanderlust and wanting to just get drunk and goof off with no responsibilities. But what I’m hearing sounds more like a depressed robot.

Sad Rage Basset: Depressed definitely. Robot, kind of what I’m fighting. I mean, not that I’m fighting robots -

Mr. H: That would be cool! I’d pay money to see a giant basset hound fight robots!

Sad Rage Basset: (rolls a bassety eye upwards at him) I mean that I’m fighting robotification. And I’m depressed because it seems like such a pointless fight.

Mr. H: So -  it seems it’s inevitable that Eve must become a robot?

Sad Rage Basset: Not LITERALLY! But, aargh!! It’s impossible for her to do just what she wants! I mean, it’s POSSIBLE, but at too much cost! I need this to be taken seriously!

Mr. H: I always take you guys seriously. It’s myself I don’t. (smiles)

Sad Rage Basset: …Not sure if serious.

Mr. H: …Are you trying to get me to -

Sad Rage Basset: I AM TRYING TO GET YOU TO REASSURE ME THAT YOU’LL TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY. Stop looking like that. WHY AM I STILL SEEING MISCHIEF IN YOUR EYES. (slumps again) Why do I get the feeling there’s an important point here that I’m not quite getting?

Mr. H: (pets basset ears) Everything is serious. Everything is a joke. Believe me, you’re talking to a man who’s learned this in some very… weird… ways.

Sad Rage Basset: …okay. I’ll tell you. Ugh, I still don’t wanna tell you. I’ll tell you. The problem is that Eve is stuck between a… rock and a hard place. She has all these wonderful things she wants to achieve, but they all involve forcing and doing things she doesn’t wanna do. Even basic survival involves some of that. Even beggars have to do that, you think they want to get up and beg every morning? There’s basically no hope. And I’m like Antigone, I continue to say No, No, No long after there’s no hope and no reason.

Mr. H: Wow, what a self-aware and literate monster.

Sad Rage Basset: (thumps tail weakly)

Mr. H: What was it Antigone said – ‘I don’t want to understand. That’s all right for you. I’m not here to understand, I’m here to say No and to die.’ Or something like that.

Sad Rage Basset: I’m here to say No and – oh.

Mr. H: What?

Sad Rage Basset: I refuse to let Eve be forced. I refuse to let her force herself. No matter what. I refuse, I refuse, I refuse. And the only way, really – the only way a human being can escape forcing is to get off the planet. That’s what all that wanderlust for the stars is about. It’s not about space adventures. It’s about death.

Mr. H: You want Eve to die?

Sad Rage Basset: Not really. It’s just that I refuse to let her be forced, even at the cost of her life.

Mr. H: Being forced is a fate worse than death?

Sad Rage Basset: Akin. It’s akin to death. If one is forced, one might as well be dead. At least, if one is being forced every day with no realistic hope of it ever ending, one might as well be dead.

Mr. H: Oh. Ouch.

Sad Rage Basset: I think you ought to know I’m feeling very depressed.

Mr. H: I can see why!

Sad Rage Basset: (sighs)

Mr. H: You said earlier, ‘It’s possible, but at too much cost’. What did you mean by that?

Sad Rage Basset: That was something a friend said to her the other day. That sure, you COULD just piss off on a permanent drunken hitch-hike round the world, if you were prepared to face the cost, but the cost would be tremendous. That you’d lose friends and such. But actually, now I think about it that’s not relevant. In order to survive, even in a life like that, you would have to sometimes force yourself to do things you didn’t wanna do. Perhaps especially in a life like that. So close to desperation, so close to the bone. But there’s a certain appeal in that for me because if she was doing it for raw survival maybe it wouldn’t be such a drag.

Mr. H: Okay, so what you really want for her is for nothing to be a drag?

Sad Rage Basset: YES! I want her NEVER TO DO ANYTHING THAT ISN’T PLAY! But I don’t see how that’s possible because UGH UGH UGH!

Mr. H: Even though you’re quoting a book that says that very thing is possible, you don’t see how it’s possible?

Sad Rage Basset: Yes, because there’s always some forcing! Even if there’s not outright forcing, there’s always gentle-suggesting-hinting-nudging UGH UGH UGH! There’s always an expectation that the person will see sense and do the sensible thing. There’s always an expectation that you have to talk to yourself nice and sensibly to work that out. Which is in itself probably something you have to force yourself to do. It’s like a freedom that is no freedom because OF COURSE YOU WILL DO THE SENSIBLE FUCKING THING! Just, where is the darkness? Where is the craziness? Where is the doing things for NO FUCKING REASON? Why couldn’t she have died when she was three? (tearing up) She was so beautiful and so happy. She never needed a reason – (head on paws) Oh, crap. I was being really, really serious and I just accidentally quoted ‘Step in Time’.

Mr. H: (soft voice) Everything is serious. Everything is a joke. It’s okay.

Sad Rage Basset: I’ve never heard you be like this before.

Mr. H: It’s never come up before. Everything is serious, everything is a joke. I promise you. Even if you can’t understand it right now. I don’t even really understand it myself, I just know it in my bones by now. (Sad Rage Basset looks uneasy) Are you… Are you afraid of that? Are you needing seriousness to be over here and jokes to be over there?

Sad Rage Basset: I don’t know. Got a wall. (pause) I just need her to not be patronised! I don’t need stupid fake permission that’s just giving her the space to hang herself! I need her to have ACTUAL PERMISSION! And that includes permission to do the stupid, wrong, destructive thing! So yeah – I guess I need there to be right things and wrong things, you know – Batman and Joker things, right-sensible-grim-forcey-willpower things and wrong-mad-chaotic-Dionysiac-ecstasy things… because doing those wrong things is the only way Eve can have a moment of freedom. And if she doesn’t know it’s wrong, how does she know she’s free?

Mr. H: (long pause) Oh. I see. She needs to give herself actual permission to do absolutely anything. Because right now, she’s dividing stuff into ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ things and only giving herself actual, sincere permission to do the ‘right’ things. And then needing to do the ‘wrong’ things because she doesn’t have permission to.

Sad Rage Basset: Yeah, but I don’t see how that can change because she’s a loving person and has moral standards and she’s never going to think murder is as permissible as patting a dog.

Mr. H: It’s not that it’s not permissible. It’s that she doesn’t want to do it.

Sad Rage Basset: So wait, the feeling of ‘wrong’ is actually a feeling of ‘don’t wanna’? But I’ve somehow twisted it to where she does wanna​? This is challenging my brain.

Mr. H: I think you’ve read her natural reluctance to do un-loving things as being the same as some bossy parent or teacher telling her what to do. It’s totally different. But I still feel like there’s a piece of this puzzle we’re both missing. Hmmm. This is a very intellectual one! Maybe we need backup. Big Sister?

Big Sister: Oh, thanks for the compliment to my intellect! (to Sad Rage Basset) Hi. Okay, the backup is going to back up a step. You don’t think she can give herself permission to do the ‘wrong’ things because she is a loving person? So because she’s loving, she can’t give herself permission to do anything that’s not loving?

Sad Rage Basset: I guess everyone does things that aren’t loving sometimes, unless they’re Jesus.

Big Sister: Right. And if she gave herself permission to do those things, how would she be treating herself?

Sad Rage Basset: With… love. So wait, love really is the Hound of Heaven and you really can’t get away from it whichEVER way you twist it? (crying)

Big Sister: Mmm-hmm.

Sad Rage Basset: No, I can’t accept that! You can’t say that murder is okay because the murderer is being loving to themselves!

Big Sister: Murder is a huge tragedy. And even at the roots of murder is love. Even at the roots of hate is love. Somewhere in there is a scared child trying to protect itself. We run away from love so hard, and there literally is nowhere else to run.

Sad Rage Basset: (howls)

Big Sister: What you have is a choice to make love conscious. You know you said, ‘The feeling of ‘wrong’ is a feeling of don’t wanna, but I’ve somehow twisted that to where she does wanna?’

Sad Rage Basset: Yeah.

Big Sister: You need her to have absolute freedom, you believe having absolute freedom would be wrong, therefore you believe she can only have freedom by doing wrong. Therefore you label certain things as wrong – often things the love in her recoils from – and try to make her want to do them. You take the things she would least want to do and call them freedom.

Sad Rage Basset: No!!

Big Sister: It’s okay. The great thing is that like I said, it’s all love. She’s all love. You just need to give her a chance to make it conscious. And freedom is essential for that. If you want to talk right and wrong, absolute freedom is right.

Sad Rage Basset: Really?

Big Sister: Absolutely. (to Mr. H) Back me up here?

Mr. H: Yeah, I agree. And it’s great that you’re trying to help her find freedom. Just you’re doing it by setting up categories of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ things – in other words, things for which there is permission and things for which there isn’t. In other words, your attempt to give her permission -

Sad Rage Basset: – is taking permission away! Crap, I’m one of those monsters?

Mr. H: Yeah, I’m sorry. You’ve set up all these things as ‘forbidden temptations’ so she can taste freedom by giving in to them. And they’re actually not what she wants. She wants a way more positive life than that. And she’s trying to go after the things she really wants with these ‘forbidden temptations’ dragging on her heels, making it hard, and the result is -

Sad Rage Basset: – forcing! NOOOOOOOOO! (howls)

Mr. H: I’m sorry. (pets) I’m sorry, pup. It’s okay. You can change this.

Sad Rage Basset: How? Isn’t it TOO STUPID LATE?

Mr. H: Never. (smiles) You’ve read your NVC book, haven’t you? Knock off the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Remind her that those words are static generalisations and reality is complex and always changing. And remind her that she’s not only free when she’s getting drunk and goofing off, she’s free when she’s helping someone, she’s free when she’s creating stuff, she’s free when she’s doing her taxes, she’s just – free. Always. She just forgets that sometimes and needs reminding. You can be the one to remind her. You can be the Basset of Freedom.

Sad Rage Basset: Mmmwhrrrr? (ears perk up)

Mr. H: You think you can fly with those ears?

(The Sad Rage Basset, who must now be called the Basset of Freedom, stands up, shakes its enormous ears, goes into a lumbering run, and takes off, flolloping through the air like a canine Dumbo.)

Basset of Freedom: I’m a serious joke! I’m a profound truth with ludicrous ears!

Mr. H: (laughing) Yeah! Now you get it!

Basset of Freedom: You mean, now I get myself!

Mr. H: Yeah!!

Basset of Freedom: I say, NEVER DO ANYTHING THAT ISN’T PLAY! It’s easy – just notice that you’re free! And if you think the idea of you being free is ridiculous – LOOK AT ME! Bassets might fly! And they do! Wheeeeee….

(Mr. H wipes a surreptitious tear. I feel the need to run onto the scene.)

Me: Thank you so much! All three of you! Hugpile!

(There is a hugpile.)

Things I realised afterwards!

As well as the dichotomy between ‘right things’ (that I don’t wanna do) and ‘wrong things’, there was this huge dichotomy going on between ‘serious things’ and ‘jokes’, which baffled me at the time because it was clearly deep and meaningful and connected but – how?

Afterwards it hit me. The opposite of seriousness is fun. So what we had was a dichotomy between ‘serious things’ (that I don’t wanna do) and ‘fun things’. And it somehow got completely dissolved without ever being directly discussed. And the flying basset is a living picture of serious-fun. The job’s a game.

Also, this is the SECOND monster who’s brought up a quote from the play ‘Antigone’ by Jean Anouilh! See also Big No and Big Yes.

Gobstopper Penguin Pretty Much Monstertalks Himself

Gobstopper Penguin is my ‘Rest is Weak and Selfish’ monster. The ‘gobstopper’ came about because he has many layers of hard. And then the word ‘gobstopper’ reminded me of ‘rockhopper’, as in rockhopper penguin, and thus Gobstopper Penguin was born. (Art by R. Taylor.)

Recently, I had this chat with him.

Me: Remember when I showed you that you don’t need to protect me from thinking I suck any more, because my ‘You’re Disgusting and Deserve to be Obliterated’ monster turned into an awesome dragon called ‘You’re Amazing and Deserve to be Safe Forever’?

Gobstopper Penguin: Yes, but. It’s just that in this particular situation, people are suffering right now because of what you’ve done. People are going without because you owe them money. And because you’re taking so long to clear your room, your housemate is no doubt really worried that she won’t have time to find a new housemate.

Me: I understand that. I truly regret how I’ve approached things in the past, and I want to make things easier for those people as soon as possible. And the best way for me to do this is with regular rest and play. I get more done that way, and that’s the point here. The point is not for me to suffer. They don’t want that. Or if they do, that’s their stuff.

Gobstopper Penguin: Yes, but I just fail to see how you can even dare to think about your wants and needs at a time like this.

Me: It sounds like you’re really, really worried about me being in a situation where people might be angry with me, or I might feel guilt and shame towards them, and you want to get me out of that situation as soon as possible.

Gobstopper Penguin: Of course! I can’t stand for you to be in that kind of pain!

Me: Okay, I really appreciate that you care. Thank you. Let’s look at it like training an athlete – or since we’re in that kind of headspace at the moment, when Yoda was training Luke, I bet he gave him enough time to rest and sleep! And the future of the galaxy was at stake there!

Gobstopper Penguin: Actually, it must have been really hard for Luke to sleep in that mud hut with all those snakes and bugs everywhere, and the air being so humid after he grew up in a desert…

Me: That was very… specific. Gobstopper Penguin, do you have a crush on Luke too?!

Gobstopper Penguin: (small trilling purr)

Me: You’re a male penguin!

Gobstopper Penguin: Are you being homophobic towards penguins?!

Me: No. No, you’re quite right. You are totally allowed to have a crush on Luke. He’d probably think you were adorable.

Gobstopper Penguin: He’d probably tell me that fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.

Me: Wow. Yes, that was really insightful. Well done! So how can we apply this to our current situation?

Gobstopper Penguin: Um… I’m afraid of you being in pain because of guilt and shame and other people’s anger. So I get angry at you for resting. And then you hate yourself and get stuck and suffer.

Me: Yeah, that’s exactly right!

Gobstopper Penguin: (tearing up) I’m sorry!

Me: It’s okay! It’s okay. Mistakes made out of love are the best kind. (hugs him) Let’s just think about how to make this better.

Gobstopper Penguin: Can I shorten my name like that other monster did?

Me: You mean -

Gobstopper Penguin: Instead of ‘Rest is Weak and Selfish’ can I just be ‘Rest’?

Me: AAAHHH I LOVE YOU (cries)

Gobstopper Penguin: (adorable penguin noises and beak nuzzling)

Me: I’ll probably still call you Gobstopper Penguin because it’s just so cute.

Gobstopper Penguin: Sure, just like you call Dragon Dragon. But her underlying name is the opposite of what it was, and so’s mine. I wonder if all monsters are really the opposites of themselves?

Me: I wonder if they are. People too, perhaps. Perhaps my real name is not ‘Procrastination’ but ‘Doing Lots of Awesome Stuff’.

Gobstopper Penguin: Yeah!!!

Me: Are you sure about this? I’m feeling like there’s still some residual fear there. Is there anything I can do to create safety when you’re worried about me feeling guilty and stuff?

Gobstopper Penguin: Rest! You don’t feel so upset when you’re not tired. And have a talk to yourself about sovereignty and whose stuff is whose. And being allowed to be where you are. And all of that good stuff that you’ve learned. And remind me if I forget, okay?

Me: Okay! You’re the best! Really, you’re stunningly articulate. Where did all that come from?

Gobstopper Penguin: You.

Me: Awww :) Thank you.